Price hikes forcing diabetic Americans to ration insulin - which could be deadly

On average, people with diabetes spend at least $5,000 on insulin every year. (Source: AP Images)
On average, people with diabetes spend at least $5,000 on insulin every year. (Source: AP Images)(KNOE)
Published: Aug. 26, 2019 at 9:31 PM CDT
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More Americans are failing to take a life-saving drug as prescribed because it costs too much. It’s a decision with dangerous, even deadly, consequences.

A new report by the Centers for Disease Control finds that among adults with diabetes, almost 18% of people do not take insulin as prescribed.

Prescribed insulin is just one of many examples of America’s problem with rising drug costs.

“We have this conversation frequently with patients. Not just with insulin but with other diabetes treatments as well,” said local endocrinologist Dr. Sandra Dempsey.

Dempsey said the reason why most patients are rationing the critical medication is that they simply can’t afford the cost and most doctors can tell when a patient has started administering free-willed doses.

“We can usually tell. Just based on the lab results from a patient who's been doing very well for a long period of time suddenly is not doing well," said Dempsey.

She said in a week she sees close to 15 patients who admit to the practice. When it comes to cost, she said most patients pay anywhere from $40 to $700 for a month’s supply, not including monitors, pumps, and needles.

“Some patients have very good insurance coverage and cost is not an issue for them, but oftentimes, especially with our Medicare patients who may end up in a doughnut hole where the coverage stops for a period of time," Dempsey said.

Ultimately she said it’s a defense mechanism which can have deadly consequences and agrees that the problem is too big for patients to tackle on their own.

She recommends talking to your doctor before taking matters into your own hands.

"Always let your doctor know. Not just diabetes but any medical problem, because this is not exclusive to diabetes. Medication costs are a big problem for patients and there are always alternative resources your doctor can prescribe.

Currently, the American Diabetes Association is pushing for more transparency across the supply chain to help figure out why insulin costs have gotten so high and encourage patients to reach out to elected officials with their concerns.